Our class from the SVA DCrit program visited Edward Tufte, the great pioneer of explaining information design, at his gallery. He is also an artist and sculptor who shows his work at his gallery, ET Modern, 547 West 20th Street.
Tufte created a new model for publishing books when he self published The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Who would have thought an author could sells thousands of copies of a heavily illustrated book with such a title?
Now Edward Tufte is creating a new model for the art gallery. His ETModern might seem an exercise in egoism. He admits “I don’t have to sell anything. It is more a museum than a gallery.” But he also approaches operating the gallery in a new way. Instead of a silent white box with a person sitting at a desk in front and a list of work, his gallery is homey and domestic.
The first thing that you notice is: you can sit down.
The gallery is outfitted with wicker chairs, red cushions and miscellaneous sofas and tables—like a real house.
Also, Tufte,the artist, is often on the spot. He has taken to hanging out at the gallery. He discusses his work on a schedule as regular as a Ronco salesman's. In publishing this would be called “hand selling” the wares.
On the walls, enlarged pages of books hang beside metal art work and video screens displaying dogs romping among large outdoor sculptures. He argues that in presenting art as in presenting information, there should be “no segregation according to the means of production.” This is the problem, he says, with books that cluster all the illustrations in an insert—or with most of our current computer graphic user interfaces, which separate images from works.
He has also recently been discussing his collection of valuable books, including a 1610 Galileo, that he used in his work and which will be sold at Christies on Dec. 2 in a dedicated auction. He will use the proceeds to create a sculpture park of some 150 acres in Connecticut, a sort of Storm King east.